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How different cultures around the world encourage good luck in the new year

For Lian Zhang, welcoming the new year has always been an opportunity to think about the future.

Growing up in Nanjing, her grandfather used to take her to a ceremony where they prayed for blessings for the upcoming year, and for the generations to come.

In China, the biggest celebrations surround the Lunar New Year, but it isn’t uncommon for celebrations on Dec. 31 in certain cities.

Ever since Zhang moved with her family to PEI from Beijing nine years ago, she’s been happy to commemorate both.

“My husband and me, we tried to find [a reason] all the time to celebrate,” she said.

Always wishing next year to be better is part of human nature.

Following what’s been a very disappointing year for many, Zhang said asking for a little luck in 2022 wouldn’t hurt.

Here’s a couple of New Year’s traditions which people around the globe share in to bring about some good fortune.

auspicious colors

Thousands of Brazilians wearing all white outfits celebrate New Year’s Eve on the beach. Pictured is the 2019 celebration in Balneário Camboriú in the state of Santa Catarina. (Submitted by Leticia Furtado)

In Brazil, it isn’t uncommon to see flocks of people dressed in white on New Year’s Eve. The color represents peace and is supposed to bring luck.

But for certain traditions, it’s the clothes you don’t show that matter. Some Italians welcome the new year wearing red underwear for good fortune, while certain countries in Latin America prefer yellow, representing wealth.

For the Chinese, red is the color of good luck and it’s worn during the festivities. The color can be seen everywhere, including the famous “lucky money” envelopes which are given during holidays and special occasions.

“During the New Year, we usually wrote some… good, blessing words in red paper we put on the front door, we sent each other,” Zhang said. “It’s just like Christmas. Everything’s in red.”

In the Philippines, it’s all about shapes. Round things are associated with money, and clothes with polka dot patterns are commonly worn on New Year’s Eve.

Fortunate foods

Two developers eat grapes in Madrid. (Chema Moya/EPA)

Food is an important part of any festival. But certain meals also have special meanings attached to them.

In China, certain foods with such meanings are eaten during new year celebrations, including fish which symbolizes prosperity, and dumplings, representing wealth.

Some countries have special dishes served during New Year’s. Tteokguk is a rice cake soup served in Korea that is said to grant good fortune and one more year of life to the person who eats a bowl of it.

In Germany, marzipan pigs called Gluckschwein are given to friends to bring good fortune.

Lentils are also served in many European countries, including Italy. They represent prosperity.

For certain cultures, how you eat something is as important as what you eat.

In Spain, the Philippines and Latin American countries, a grape must be eaten with each strike of the clock at midnight on Dec. 31. The 12 grapes are believed to bring a year of good luck.

Midnight to-do list

In some Latin American countries running around the block with an empty suitcase at midnight, it is believed to assure travel in the upcoming year. (CBC)

Certain parts of Italy toss old furniture or other objects out of the house to make for a fresh start in the upcoming year. In Denmark, dishes are broken on a friend’s doorstep to bring them good fortune.

In Turkey and Greece, pomegranates are smashed against the front door instead. The fruit symbolizes prosperity and abundance.

Other traditions are not so destructive.

For those who’d like to get out of the house in 2022, certain Latin American countries such as Colombia and Venezuela believe running around the block with an empty suitcase at midnight will make it so you are guaranteed to travel in the upcoming year.

In certain parts of the British Isles, most commonly in Scotland, the first person to enter a household on New Year’s is said to bring good luck. Generally the “first-foot” is a dark-haired male who isn’t already in the house at midnight, and should be bringing symbolic gifts. A similar tradition is celebrated in Greece.

Zhang likes to use New Year as an opportunity to reflect on the present. She usually writes in a piece of paper the names of people she appreciates, as well as messages meant for them.

“We have a lot of friends on our list, our friends’ names. They helped us before, or supported us or whatever,” she said. “Usually we thank friends during New Year’s.”

But however people decide to step into 2022, Zhang said it’s important to also be thankful for what you have as you welcome in the new.

“We wish next year all people live with a happy and healthy life. We wish, yeah, the pandemic is over,” she said. “We also wish all the world… has a peaceful future.”

“We are actually lucky. We think we are lucky [to be in] this wonderful Island.”

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